Portrait of Bass Harbor Lighthouse, January 2020

The snow crunched and caved beneath my steps, a familiar sound this time of year. The ground, though not firm, was there--eventually it would catch me, hold me, this I knew. The bare trees stood still and strong, despite the weight of the snow and the hurry of the wind. I paused in my hike, dabbing a small bead of sweat from my upper lip. The forest, this time of year, begged not to be seen, but to be heard. As I ventured forward, I closed my eyes, guided by memory. Just ahead I heard the squabbling of squirrels hiding in tree knots and nooks. Behind I heard the whistle of the wind whizzing through empty branches. This forest, though barren and empty, was surely alive.

Portrait by Claudia Bowden, wandering around in Acadia National Park

I sighed, opening my eyes. How long had I been walking? And how long had it been snowing? The sounds of the forest quieted, only the sound of my fast heart beat echoed across the snow. I peeked over my shoulder, only a few feet of fresh footprints staggered behind me. I surveyed my surroundings; had I been here before? The noise sounded familiar. The trees and snow smelled familiar. But nothing looked familiar. Nothing appeared the same as before. I was on a new trail, a new path. And it only took 5 seconds to realize I was lost.

I swung around, attempting to follow what little footprints remained, hoping to find a familiar sight and a way back to what I knew, to what was familiar. But I hesitated; a hint of excitement rattled deep in my bones. Peeking over my shoulder once more in the other direction, I searched the void of new: a blank canvas, a sunrise, an empty slate, a barren white forest, a first date. I took a step forward, bound to this new trail. Slowly, at first. Then eventually the crunching and caving of the snow beneath my feet surged through the forest. With each new step, I found endless possibilities. I couldn’t help but wonder, what might meet me on this path?

Lost? Perhaps.

Wandering? Absolutely.

May you stay curious this winter,